Declan's Moon Nosed by Desert Boom in Return

Champion Declan's Moon fell from the ranks of the undefeated in his first start in more than 16 months when Desert Boom nipped him by a nose at the wire of an optional claiming allowance race at Hollywood Park Sunday.

The 2004 Eclipse Award winner as the nation's outstanding juvenile male, Declan's Moon, now 4, had won five in a row and was making his first start against older horses. The dark brown gelding had not been in action since winning the Santa Catalina (gr. II) at Santa Anita in March 2005. It was his only start of the year for trainer Ron Ellis and owner Jay Em Ess Stable after suffering an injury and a number of setbacks on the comeback trail.

Facing just three rivals in the 6 1/2-furlong event, Declan's Moon, the 2-5 favorite with regular rider Victor Espinoza aboard, was prominent early as Yes He's a Pistol took the early lead and completed the opening quarter-mile in :21 3/5. Declan's Moon edged to the lead while three wide on the outside after a :44 1/5 half-mile. With Espinoza sitting chilly in upper stretch, Declan's Moon took a short lead while drifting in through the stretch. Desert Boom, allowed to trail the field by about five lengths throughout under Juan Ochoa, ranged up on the outside in mid-stretch to challenge. Espinoza went to work on Declan's Moon, first left-handed and then right-handed, but the 6-year-old winning machine Desert Boom got up in the final two jumps under left-handed urging in a time of 1:15 4/5.

Robert Bone, putting the finishing touches on another Southern California title, owns Desert Boom, who is trained by Art Sherman. Winner of the 2005 Claiming Crown Jewel, Desert Boom has won 15 times in 39 starts, including three victories in eight tries over the Hollywood Park main track.

He paid $13.40 and $3. Declan's Moon returned $2.20. Yes He's a Pistol and Seattle Buddy followed. Areyoutalkintome scratched.

(Chart, Equibase)